Sunday Reflection with Fr Terry Tastard - 4 October 2009

The readings this weekend are both challenging and beautiful at the same time, and it is important that we hold them together.  In Genesis 2.18-24 we get one of the creation stories.  The man beholds the woman and exclaims that she is bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh.  The point of the story is not so much to explain how the two genders came to be.  Rather, the point is to underscore the deep unity of the two, a unity so deep that, as Jesus says, in marriage the two become one.

The language of common flesh and bone expresses this beautifully:  they form one life together, they depend upon each other, they feel through each other.  And this, surely, is the reality of marriage, that where it works, the twoindividuals who enter into it are deeply and irrevocably changed.  In this sense what is done cannot be undone.  Hence the stance of Jesus regarding marriage after divorce.  Jesus sets his face against it (Mark 10.2-16), and this teaching, upheld by the Church, is one that has brought great sadness to many couples who know themselves to be truly loving and committed in their new marriage.  Yet I would guess that even those partners who had been married before could not say that their previous marriage had left them unchanged. 
Marriage is always a work in progress.  But for those whose relationship stands the test of time, the rewards are great.  Companionship.  Intimacy.  The shared upbringing of children who can both infuriate you and delight you but whose fulfilment is your common project and leads you often to put their needs first.  In short, where marriage works, even if it works imperfectly, it is a living spirituality. 

Some 1800 years ago the Christian writer Tertullian recognised this.  He describes husband and wife in these words:  ‘Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in spirit.  They are, in very truth, two in one flesh; and where there is but one flesh there is also but one spirit.  They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another.  Side by side they visit God’s church and partake of God’s Banquet; side by side they face difficulties and persecution,  share their consolations.’ 
Of course, where the rewards are so great, the risks are also great, and so we should have great respect for all who enter into marriage, whether or not their union stands the test of time.  We live in an age where people flee many different kinds of commitment, preferring a fluidity and a provisonality to be the keynotes of their lives. 

But can you build for the future if everything is provisional?  Can you give others around you a sense of stability and security if you regard your domestic arrangements as being tentative?  In short, there is no replacement for marriage.  As a priest I have developed a deep and abiding respect for those who pledge themselves to each other in marriage - for richer for poorer, for better for worse, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish.  Without this loving public commitment, we would all be the poorer. 

Fr Terry Tastard is Parish Priest of Holy Trinity RC Church, Brook Green, London W6.

Share this story